Monday, November 16, 2020

Junking - the Perfect Artist's Date!

An artist's date is a way to devote time to your creative self. It should be done solo, and the time is just for you. Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist's Way, describes them as assigned play. It may be walking through an art supply store or visiting a museum—anything you find creative and enjoyable.

Last week I was able to go on an Artist’s Date doing one of my most adored thing to do, JUNKING, at my favorite place in west Kentucky. If you love StencilGirl® Stencils, you probably love Mixed Media. And if you love Mixed Media, I’m pretty sure things like old ledger pages, cool art supply storage tins, rusty bits, and all kinds of goodies like that make your heart go pitter-pat. 

Anything Goes Trading Company in Boaz, KY is about a 15-minute drive off of I-24 taking Exit 7 in Paducah. It’s a remarkable destination who’s owner always accommodates folks taking classes at Ephemera Paducah. I’ve incorporated field trips into class weekends, called to ask them to stay open late and send anyone in the shop wanting to find cool old stuff to it. I call it “the most well-organized junkyard” you will ever trip across. You shop outside first and make a pile. The owner or shopkeeper will price it for you. Then you move inside where everything is priced, but generally, there is some kind of sale going on.

I grew up following my mom around to antique stores, flea markets, and monthly shows at the civic center in east Tennessee. My mom was an antique dealer and the consummate haggler. True story. I was with her once when she picked up a Cherokee Indian Basket she well knew was worth a good bit of money and couldn’t read if the price tag was $50 or $60. When she brought it to the shop owner he took a look at it and said, “$5.” Her reply was, “would you take $4.50?” I kid you not. 

Since I’ve been doing this for, yikes, half a decade, I’ve figured out a thing or two to make my expeditions fruitful, and thus, more enjoyable! Enjoy the photos from my junking adventures from the last couple of months!

Here’s my list of Top Junking Pro-Tips:

#1 Know what you are looking for and articulate it

This helps when a store is overwhelmed with merchandise, not well organized, or you are on a hunt like the 400-Mile Sale and there is just so. much. stuff. Have a list of items you want to find and look specifically for them. I think by doing this you are also asking for help from the Universe to manifest your desires, but that’s a whole other book.

The past few months I’ve been looking for hinged tins that could house art supplies or watercolors, green tins in all shapes and sizes for my home studio, and dip pens. I am always on the hunt for red or teal toolboxes (not tackle boxes, big difference), old ledgers filled with cool writing, bundles of letters, and metal letter stencils.

#2 If you are shopping with a buddy, tell them what's on your list 

Two sets of eyes are better than one. This is also a great way to give your spouse a job if they're tagging along. ahem.


#3 Know what you should spend on the items you’re looking for

If you don’t know for sure what an item’s value is, spend some time on eBay before venturing out to get a feel for what it is selling for. Make sure and notice if shipping is included in the pricing as it can make a difference.

Generally, I’m looking for “wholesale” pricing as what I find will get marked up for a profit margin when it goes into the shop. For personal items that bring me great joy, I will splurge. However, It never feels good being taken so, a little knowledge is powerful.  

These 1960's kid encyclopedia have THE BEST illustrations. Great for Oracle Decks. 

#4 Ask for specialty items

I mentioned ledgers earlier. These are hard for me to find in a shop without asking. They get shelved in the book section, stacked underneath things, and oftentimes, don’t stick out. It never hurts to ask the shopkeeper if they know if items on your list are available. 

Ledger paper makes a beautiful background or in collage. Scan it and have it for a lifetime. 

#5 Learn how to say, “is this the best price?”

For those who hate to haggle, this is a gracious way to inquire if the owner of the object can knock off a bit. Volume matters so wait until you have all your purchases loaded on the counter to ask. In an antique mall the person working the register either knows what the vendors’ standard discount is or will call to ask. I tend not to ask unless the item is more than $50.

Another trick is to ask, “how much for all of them?”

These stencils were in a shop, priced by the piece. Taking them all, the owner knocked off about half what she was asking.

Any game with letters has to go home with me! And Anything Goes is the bomb for Rusty bits for dying. 

I hope this helps with your next Artist’s Junking Date! 

Tag me if you find some really cool stuff!

As much as I love red toolboxes, I left this one there. Extra points for creative closure, though. 

I love it when shops group items. Great displays at Anything Goes!

I ADORE finding the perfect vintage storage pieces for art supplies. 


  1. This is a fun column - makes me want to go out junking!

  2. Ohhh we have soooo much in common. My heart is on overdrive!

  3. I loved this article! Glad to hear there are others that enjoy JUNK!

  4. This makes me "homesick" for my junking trips put on hold by the pandemic. Can't wait for flea markets to be open again!

  5. This is Junk??? Coulda fooled me! I'll take it all! My heart went pitter patter at the sight of those oil cans. Don't know what it is about them, but I just love them! "Junk" is something an artist hasn't found a use for yet!


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